Oldest Telescope Still in Use 

Oldest Telescope Still in Use 

Telescopes were one of man’s greatest inventions. They allow us to look beyond the limits of the sky and into the far parts of space, and they allow us to see what’s out there in the universe. 

Over the years, scientists have refined this wonderful invention, and there have been several telescopes that were used all over the world. However, out of the thousands of older telescopes all over the world, not many of them are still being used today. In this article, we’ll look more closely at some of the oldest telescopes that are still in use today. 

Let’s dive right in. 

7. Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope

Year of establishment: 2008
Location: Outer space
Used for: Gamma-ray astronomy

Fermi Gamma-ray Space TelescopePhoto Source: Wikimedia Commons

The Fermi Gamma-ray space telescope is widely known for its gamma-ray observations. Since the telescope is part of an observatory, its main instrument is used to study cosmological and astrophysical phenomena. It is also used to study dark matter, active galactic nuclei, and other phenomena. 

This observatory telescope doesn’t belong to NASA alone but is a collaboration between the United States Department of Energy and various government agencies in Japan, Germany, Sweden, Italy, and France. 

Did you know?

The Fermi Gamma-ray space telescope is named after Enrico Fermi, who was the creator of the world’s first nuclear reactor.

6. Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory

Year of establishment: 2004
Location: Outer space
Used for: Gamma-ray astronomy

Neil Gehrels Swift ObservatoryPhoto Source: Wikimedia Commons

The Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory is used to study gamma-ray bursts. It might surprise you to know that this observatory has three telescopes, all of which are used to monitor and observe UV and visible light when bursts occur. It is also used to help monitor the afterglow of an X-ray. 

This space telescope has a burst detection rate of 100 per year. One of the most interesting things about this observatory is that it currently functions as a multi-wavelength observatory. 

Did you know? 

The Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory’s mission was only supposed to be two years long, but has been going on for over 19 years!

5. INTErnational Gamma-Ray Astrophysics Laboratory

Year of establishment: 2002
Location: Outer space
Used for: Observing gamma rays 

INTErnational Gamma-Ray Astrophysics LaboratoryPhoto Source: Wikimedia Commons

The INTErnational Gamma-Ray Astrophysics Laboratory, or INTEGRAL, as it is often referred to, is a telescope that is used to observe gamma rays in space. This space telescope was launched in 2002 into the Earth’s orbit by the European Space Agency. 

This telescope was specifically designed to provide researchers with spectroscopy and imaging of various cosmic sources. At present, this telescope is the most sensitive observatory dedicated to gamma rays in outer space! 

Did you know?

Although this telescope has lost its thrusters, it has continued to operate by using solar radiation pressure and reaction wheels.

4. Chandra X-ray Observatory

Year of establishment: 1999
Location: Above the Earth’s atmosphere 
Used for: X-ray astronomy

Chandra X-ray ObservatoryPhoto Source: Wikimedia Commons

The Chandra X-ray Observatory is one of NASA’s most expensive and capable scientific telescopes ever launched. It was launched on the Space Shuttle Columbia on the 23rd of July, 1999. Chandra’s mirrors have high angular resolution, making this telescope sensitive to various X-ray sources. 

What makes Chandra a unique telescope is the fact that its sensitivity to X-ray sources has separated it from other X-ray telescopes. It can detect X-rays that are 100 times fainter! It is considered to be one of the Great Observatories, just like the Hubble Space Telescope and the Spitzer Space Telescope. 

Did you know?

The Chandra X-ray Observatory is named after a Nobel Prize winner! Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar was a theoretical astrophysicist from Punjab.

3. Hubble Space Telescope

Year of establishment: 1990
Location: Low Earth orbit
Used for: Research and Astronomy

Hubble Space TelescopePhoto Source: Wikimedia Commons

The Hubble Space Telescope, or HST, is one of the most widely known telescopes in the world and also one of the oldest. It has been in operation since it was first launched in 1990, and is one of the most versatile space telescopes to have been launched. The HST is a visible light telescope and is used as a general-purpose observatory. 

The Hubble Space Telescope has five primary instruments that observe various regions of the electromagnetic spectrum. Since its orbit is outside of the Earth’s atmosphere, it is able to capture images with low background light levels and extremely high resolution! Unlike other space telescopes out there, the Hubble Space Telescope is the only one in the world that was designed to be maintained entirely by astronauts

Did you know?

The Hubble Space Telescope has helped determine the universe’s expansion rate, which is one of the most groundbreaking discoveries in Astrophysics.

2. Haute-Provence Observatory Telescopes

Year of establishment: 1958
Location: Saint-Michel-l’Observatoire, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, Metropolitan France, France
Used for: Research 

Haute-Provence Observatory TelescopesPhoto Source: Wikimedia Commons

The Haute-Provence Observatory is located in the Côte d’Azur region of France. It’s worth noting that there are around 4 telescopes in this observatory, the first of which is a 1.20 m telescope. It was installed in 1872 in Paris but has since been moved, and is currently used to get imaging in galaxies and study the variability of X-ray sources. 

In addition to the telescope mentioned above, the other telescopes at this observatory are all reflecting telescopes. They all have primary mirrors. 

Did you know?

The Haute-Provence Observatory has geophysics research stations that study the thermosphere and mesosphere.

1. Cincinnati Observatory Telescope

Year of establishment: 1843
Location: Mount Lookout, Cincinnati, Ohio
Used for: Public education programs

Cincinnati Observatory TelescopePhoto Source: Wikimedia Commons

The telescope in the Cincinnati Observatory is generally considered to be the oldest telescope in the world that’s still being used for research and astronomy today! This telescope is an 1845 Merz und Mahler 11-inch refractor. It is currently being used for various public education programs. 

This observatory is a part of the Observatory Historic District in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Cincinnati, and at present, it functions as a 19th-century observatory. It played a key role in astronomical research at the University of Cincinnati as well. 

Did you know?

In addition to housing the oldest telescope that’s still in use, the Cincinnati Observatory is also the oldest professional observatory in America.


As we mentioned in the introduction, telescopes are one of man’s greatest inventions. They let us look beyond the Earth’s atmosphere and observe the elements of outer space from the comfort of the Earth’s surface! In this article, we made sure to include telescopes that have been launched into outer space, as well as some that are situated here on Earth. All of these telescopes are still in use today, and it doesn’t seem as though their work will be complete any time soon! 

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